World News

Climate change made heatwaves 45 times more likely in South Asia

In South and Southeast Asia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam broke records for their hottest April day, and the Philippines experienced its hottest night ever.

In the scorching April heat of 2024, Asia felt the burn. Temperatures soared above 40°C on the continent, affecting billions of people. Experts from the World Weather Attribution group studied the situation and blamed it on the impact of climate change as the culprit. Their report, released last Wednesday, encapsulates how climate change made heatwaves, exacerbated by climate change, are making life harder for those already struggling in poverty across Asia and for the 1.7 million Palestinians displaced in Gaza.

Impact of Climate Change Made Heatwaves More Frequent and Intense in Asia

Asia found itself in the grip of severe heat waves during this month. In South and Southeast Asia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam broke records for their hottest April day, and the Philippines experienced its hottest night ever. India topped it all with temperatures hitting a scorching 46ºC. Even in West Asia, places like Palestine and Israel felt the heat, with temperatures surpassing over 40°C. To make the situation worse, April turned out to be the hottest on record globally, marking the eleventh straight month of breaking heat records.

Climate change made heatwaves
Source: The Business Standard

People paid a heavy price for the heat. At least 28 heat-related deaths were reported in Bangladesh, five in India, and three in Gaza during April. Surges in heat deaths have also been reported in Thailand and the Philippines this year. But these numbers do not even scratch the surface because many heat-related deaths often go unreported. The heat also caused crop failures, loss of livestock, water shortages, and even the mass die-off of fish. Schools had to close, and in Kerala, India, the heat might have even affected voter turnout in this election season.

The blame rests largely on human activities like burning oil, coal, and gas, and chopping down forests. These actions are heating up the planet, making heat waves more common, longer, and hotter. To quantify the effect of human-caused warming on the extreme temperatures across Asia, scientists analysed weather data and climate models using peer-reviewed methods to compare how these types of events have changed between today’s climate, with approximately 1.2°C of global warming, with the cooler pre-industrial climate. They also looked at the influence of El Niño–Southern Oscillation, a natural climate cycle.

In West Asia, the scientists found that heat waves above 40°C are becoming more frequent because of human activities. Such heat waves were expected about once every ten years but climate change has made them five times more likely now.

The study shows that without human-caused climate change, such extreme heat events would have been almost impossible, even under El Niño conditions. Overall, climate change made this year’s heatwave 1°C hotter, while El Niño added another 0.2°C. If global warming reaches 2°C, similar heatwaves in the Philippines could occur every two to three years and get another 0.7°C hotter. In South Asia, 30-day heat waves might come once every 30 years, but they’ve already become 45 times more likely and 0.85°C hotter due to climate change.

The study also emphasised on how climate change is making life tougher for people especially those living in poverty or dealing with war. Many of the 1.7 million displaced people who live there, live in makeshift tents, which trap heat and lack proper access to healthcare and clean water.

Across South and Southeast Asia, hundreds of millions of people living in informal housing and working outdoors, like farmers, construction workers, and street vendors, are hit hard by extreme heat. The increasing risk of dangerous heat, especially in fast-growing cities like Manila, showcases a need for heat plans that protect vulnerable groups. Some countries, like India, have made progress in developing heat action plans, but there are still big gaps across the continent to bridge.

The study, conducted by 13 researchers from the World Weather Attribution group, including scientists from Malaysia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, highlights the urgent need to address climate change and its devastating impacts on people’s lives in Asia and across the world.

Friederike Otto, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said: “From Gaza to Delhi to Manila, people suffered and died when April temperatures soared in Asia. Heat Waves have always happened. But the additional heat, driven by emissions from oil, gas and coal, is resulting in death for many people. If humans continue to burn fossil fuels, the climate will continue to warm, and vulnerable people will continue to die.”

You might also be interested in – Supreme Court ruling: Right to be free from climate change is a unique, basic human right

Related Articles

Back to top button